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Chopsticks and Other Tools for Fine Motor Skills

Looking for a fun idea at home, at a pre-school center or just for fun? Get those chopsticks and pom poms (or cotton balls) out for a variety of activities. Pictured below is the simplest form for young ones to practice hand dexterity, fine motor skills and coordination. Notice the child’s chopsticks are connected and much easier to manipulate.

This idea can be used for many purposes in learning:

Children can sort by color or size and even label after sorting.

One to one correspondence, by placing in egg cartons or on a paper with circles drawn on it.

Simple math problems with adding or subtracting.

There are many other ways for little ones to develop and improve dexterity.

As babies encourage your child to turn the pages of a board book by slightly lifting page and guiding their fingers to complete turning the page. Have them feel different textures, play hand games like “Where is Thumbkin” and wave hello and goodbye.

Toddlers and preschoolers can work on finger dexterity as it is important for each finger to work separately from the others. continue hand games and songs such as The Itsy Bitsy Spider and the Wheels on the Bus.  Hand and finger puppets are also a fun and excellent way to develop hand coordination. Playdough-makes balls or just poke holes with different fingers. the normal play of children such as blocks, using tupperware out of your drawers can all help with coordination. Cutting food so children can easily pick up and eat is a great everyday practice for children. for example, cut small chunks of cheese instead of slices for easier pick up and eating on their own. hand eye coordination is easily practiced with a balloon for all ages. the simple and cheap things we already have at home can serve as tools for learning and growing.

Preschool and early elementary age children can start learning sign language, using more complex puppets and making shadows with their hands. Smaller items such as tweezers and eyedroppers can be used to continue the growth of  fine motor skills. A turkey baster to play with outside or the bathtub allows for fun play and more hand dexterity. Crafts and games also become more complex and an excellent way for strengthening the hand and fingers. Remember the games Operation, mandala and Connect Four? Some of the oldies but goodies still apply today. Instruments give plenty of exercise to develop the motor skills and so much more!

Valentine’s Day, Colorful Hearts

This activity was used in a classroom center, so I made it to use for many children. I wrote out the steps and numbered, but I left them scrambled, so the group would have to put them in order to start the activity. Depending on the age of your children, you could do this whole group or at home. The activity is meant for following directions, tracing, cutting and placing the hearts in order from largest to smallest. if you are short on time, you can tailor it to meet your needs. For example, use only three hearts for the project or use the two large hearts and only glue the bottom three quarters to make a heart pocket. The ideas go on, but  you get what I mean. Have fun and celebrate love!

Cool Tools for Art

A  simple and fun art project for children of all ages. Using tempera paint, have the child choose the tools they will use to move the paint around. Any type of tools can be utilized. Have the children search the surroundings such as sticks, stones and leaves. The teacher of this lesson can also bring items like popsicle sticks, ribbons, cotton swabs, straws and any other cool things.

If you are working with toddlers and pre-school children (actually any age), it can get messy. So, be prepared with drop clothes, wipes and smocks.

This is a great example for the activity nature’s paintbrush used during Earth Day.

The finished product could be used for gift wrap if the art project is done on paper rolls or on a blank gift bag. Other times we have made home made cards. You can purchase the blank cards and envelopes at a craft store or just fold paper to fit an envelope. Either way, have your child or children paint and use their tools for a unique card to give for any occasion from Mother’s Day to a simple thank you.

Children will enjoy using some of their favorite things to collect from sticks to fallen leaves to make this creative masterpiece.

Make Your Own Puffy Paint

Puffy paint is always a big hit with children. It is fun and different. To save the cost of the small containers at the store, you can make your own puffy paint. The best thing about making your own, besides the lower cost, is the amount you can make for a large group of children like a classroom, girl scout troop or just having friends over to the house.  Start out by collecting bottles that can squeeze out paint, like mustard bottles or used paint bottles that are empty. You can also buy the bottles at the store that have not been used. For some strange reason my children have an aversion to mustard and I know they will not want to use paint from a used mustard bottle.  If you prefer to use a paintbrush to use the puffy paint that would work  also. This paint will dry super shiny and will rise. This will be a hit with the children.

You will need:

Flour

Water

Salt

Food coloring

Mix equal parts of all the materials except the food coloring.  Pour into separate cups. add the desired color of food coloring and mix well. You can then have the children paint with paintbrushes from the cup, or you can our the paint into separate squeezable containers.

This recipe is easy for the children to make their very own paint. Anytime children can make their own craft stuff to use is a great accomplishment.  Another advantage of this easy recipe is that little hands can help even if they stick their curious little fingers in their mouth.  The paint is non-toxic. I have not stored any of this paint, so I will have to update the post when I get the chance to see how well and long this puffy paint will store.  Please feel free to let me know if you figure it out!

Making A Tree With Meaning


As a teacher, there are many fun ways to send home art projects that capture the child’s age and size. This is a fun activity that may take some extra helping hands if you have more than one child or doing as a group. Looking at the picture you can see how messy the kiddos are going to get with paint up to their elbows. This art activity will take some preparation before the children enter the picture.

You will need:

Paint (red, green and brown)

Paper

Area with paper or plastic art covering to protect flooring

Start with the brown paint and place along child’s arm and thumb. Have them place their arm onto the paper. Make sure you help them lift the arm off of the paper. If not, it could lead to some messy prints. Have the child clean up. Next, use the green paint to put on child’s hands and fingers to make leaves. Again, clean up and place red paint on one thumb to create the apples on the tree. This would be a creative project for the end of the year gift to parents with a child’s poem written about growing like a tree. As always quotes add an inspirational moment to the gift. Younger students can write a sentence such as “Look at me, I am growing like an apple tree!”

If you wanted to include a math project for kindergarten and younger, you could have them make a certain number of apples in the tree. For example, have index cards with numbers written “ten” or numerically written “10,” then the child would make the amount that their card was labeled. It all depends on the child or children. They could have to make an even number of apples to practice the meaning of even and odd in mathematics. The mini-lesson possibilities in art and all day long are endless!

This art project would also relate to Arbor day, seasons, family tree and a beginning of the year art project for the wall. This applies to teachers, child care professionals, home school moms and scout leaders.

I always recommend finding a paint with no gluten in it, as some art supplies contain hidden gluten. This would be for classrooms or parents that have children with celiac disease.

Little Miss Picky-Spelling Game

Children love to play games and anytime children are involved in learning without knowing it they will be more involved. So, this game is based off of a spelling game I used to do in the classroom.  You can easily modify the game for ages four through eight years old.  In the example, I will use letters but older children could be learning suffixes and non-suffixes, compound words  and non-compound words or adjectives and non-adjectives .  This should be a fun and short way to reinforce spelling and word properties at home or in the classroom.

Example:

Write the heading “likes” and “dislikes” on the whiteboard or paper.  Then have the child or children guess what little Miss Picky might like to eat.

SHHH….. Do not tell them what she eats. As they guess, write down their guess in the appropriate column.

For this example, Miss Picky will only eat foods that start with the letter “S.”  But it could be only words with a long o sound, short a sound, two syllables, five letters….you get the point.

The object of the game is to discover the pattern of Miss Picky.

So on with the example:

In the “Likes” column you may see; spaghetti, strawberries, sandwiches, squash.

In the “Dislikes” column you may see jelly, tomatoes, bagels, oranges etc.

*If you have a few more minutes and they have guessed the pattern, allow them to come up and continue the list.

*Artsy people can draw a Little Miss Picky and write the accepted words on her body or dress.  If you are using this in a classroom, laminate Miss Picky and use a dry erase marker each time you play!

WORD MATCH-Simple Activity for Beginning Readers

Perfect activity for emerging readers, practicing spelling words and makes a great center for classrooms.  This is so simple and easy to organize. Choose the words your child or students need to practice. Then, write or print the words on a list. Then print the words again large and cut the letters apart as in the picture shown.  I used sentence strips, I just love them!  Place everything into a bag or plastic container. The list of words can be taped to the front of the container or bag.

If you plan on keeping these, I would organize by color or some other system so you can easily pull out the words you will need. For example, colors could be a code for easy to difficult, or grade levels or the week of the spelling list.  Use what makes sense to you. Happy spelling!

Simple Desert Creature Art Project

Need to make a fun and simple art project to go with a desert animal theme or lesson?  Children love texture and glue. You will need to pre-cut the animals for little ones or make a sample to trace.  The sample below is a scorpion with different sized beans glued on the card stock. Snakes, lizards and gila monsters would also look fantastic!

You will need: heavy paper (card stock), scissors, glue and beans.

NO-COOK MODELING DOUGH

Need a quick and simple activity for the children or classroom?  This no-cook recipe is simple and perfect for creative children. It can also be used as a learning tool and game.  Give each child a portion of the dough and have them make formations appropriate for their age.  For example, “make two spheres, form a line that is three inches long,” or “make a smiley face!”  I use this recipe as a last minute activity when we are going to be home inside or having a play date.

NO-COOK MODELING DOUGH

2 Cups flour

1 cup salt

water

tempera paint powder

Mix ingredients, adding water to make the dough pliable.  Not too much it will be too sticky.

The dough can air dry to harden or can be baked at 300 degrees for an hour.  The time may depend on the thickness of the creation.

Pancake Fun

A yummy in the tummy way to practice letters for the little ones!  Using your favorite pancake recipe, look at mine below, make the letter of the day or the child’s initials on the griddle.   Or, as a class focuses on the letter “P” have a pancake snack and serve up letter P pancakes. Yum!

In the younger grades it is fun to read “If You give A Pig A Pancake” and have pancake snacks that day, as well as other literature activities. If you are in a school, please check your policies. As when I taught, we brought the griddle in the class.

One way is to write a letter on the pan let it cook until you see bubbles. Then pour batter over letter to make a “normal” pancake.  The image is in the pancake. Have fun with this, you can make smiley faces etc.  Also, note that you will need to write the mirror image for letters like “L”  or they will be backwards!


Or, just write a large letter to be the pancake itself. A turkey baster works well, but I just used a spoon for mine.

The whole family agrees that this recipe is the best so far.   Hope you and your family or class have a yummy in the tummy pancake experience!

Basic Pancake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, stirred or sifted before measuring
  • 2  teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Preparation:

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 1/2 cups of milk; add to flour mixture, stirring only until smooth. Blend in melted butter. If the batter seems too thick to pour, add a little more milk. Cook on a hot, greased griddle, using about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook until bubbly, a little dry around the edges, and lightly browned on the bottom; turn and brown the other side. Recipe for pancakes serves 4.

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